You know that owning a rental property can be a profitable, successful, long-term investment. But what you might not know is that there are a lot of laws, codes, and regulations that go along with West Haven property management. Landlords must be familiar with these rules if they want to avoid legal trouble. Not only are lawsuits time-consuming, they can get very expensive, very fast. One legal issue can potentially cost you the same or more as the annual profit from a rental property. In this business, you really need to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. You never know what legal pitfalls might happen along your way. Risks can cost you, and at Real Property Management Southern Connecticut, we want to help you avoid legal problems with these ten rules.
Rule #1: BE ACCOMMODATING
You need to learn all about the Americans with Disabilities Act before you even start renting out your home. This act requires that you do not discriminate against any tenants with disabilities, whether mental or physical. As a rental property owner, you have to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:
“A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. A housing provider should do everything s/he can to assist, but s/he is not required to make changes that would fundamentally alter the program or create an undue financial and administrative burden.”
For example, say that you own a multi-family unit and all the parking outside your unit is on a, “first come, first serve” basis. If your tenant uses a wheelchair, you could make an exception or accommodation to your general rule by allowing them a reserved parking space in front of their specific unit. The ADA also states that you must allow tenants to install adequate access features, such as a wheelchair ramp. This act also prohibits landlords from restricting or charging for service animals. Failing to abide by these rules could land you in court paying out hundreds of dollars in fines and lawyer fees. So, become familiar with the ADA.
Rule #2: BE FAIR
You would be livid if someone denied you a rental home leasing agreement just because you had blonde hair, right? Well, it’s a good thing there are Federal laws in place that forbid anyone from doing that! The Fair Housing Act says it’s illegal to pick and choose who you want to rent from you based on gender, race, religion, color, sex, national origin, handicap, or familial status.
Violations can cost tens of thousands of dollars. So follow the Fair Housing Act!
Rule #3: BE SAFE
Although each state is different, most habitability laws require that your rental property be “habitable” or “livable” for an individual or family. Think about if you would be comfortable living in your rental home before you deem it ready for tenants. You must provide:
- Running water
- Protection from the elements
- A mold-free unit
- Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors that work properly
Don’t want to comply with these habitability laws? You can end up with messy landlord/tenant disputes, a lawsuit on your hands, or expensive government action.
Rule #4: BE CONSCIENTIOUS
Some inexperienced rental property management owners try to cut costs by fixing repairs themselves or hiring unlicensed workers. This can land you in trouble. Most states require licensing, along with minimum liability and worker’s compensation insurance policies. Liability insurance will protect you in case the repair person causes damage to your home. Likewise, if an unlicensed repair person gets hurt while fixing something for you, it can lead to very costly lawsuits, especially if they don’t have workers’ compensation insurance. Not to mention that makeshift repairs can make the maintenance problem worse or cause injury to your tenant. So be conscientious and hire only licensed and insured personnel to conduct repairs.
RULE #5: BE AWARE
There are also rules about who can perform real estate agent functions. You can get into legal trouble if you don’t have a licensed real estate agent doing the showings and advertising your property. Having someone pose as a realtor or doing what they are not licensed to can lead to costly fines, fraud charges, and worse. How do you ensure you’re not getting scammed by a fake realtor? From Scam Detector:
“In this [recent] scam, a so-called realtor sells property to a buyer. However, once a check is written for escrow, an unlicensed realtor deposits the money into their own account and not into the escrow account. Do yourself a favor and vet anyone you’re going to be working with, both your realtor and the one on the other end of the sale. A LinkedIn account doesn’t mean someone is trustworthy or a valid realtor, so do the homework. A person could have been a licensed realtor previously, but may now have an expired license.”
Be sure that you hire a realtor that can provide you with their license and prove they are who they say they are.
RULE #6: BE AVAILABLE
Most tenants will tell you that responsiveness is something they wish for in a landlord. You need to respond promptly to urgent calls from your tenants anytime they have a maintenance request. To avoid liability in West Haven property management, it’s best to have a 24/7 hotline where tenants can email or call in their emergencies and have an actual person to talk to if you’re not free to respond.
RULE #7: BE DILIGENT
Improperly handling security deposits and funds can put you in violation of trust accounting and other laws. These types of violations can cost up to 3 times the security deposit if handled incorrectly, so be sure you diligently research accounting laws.
RULE #8: BE ACCOUNTABLE
In West Haven property management, it’s imperative that you keep accurate records of all tenant requests, including when and how you responded to your tenant. This is the primary source of reliable information in litigation, so don’t just “forget”. Be sure each record is stamped with the date and time it occurred, and include all service and financial transactions in the history with your tenant.
RULE #9: BE TRUSTWORTHY
As a property owner, you have access to a lot of personal information your tenants would wish to keep private, such as social security number, birth date, pay stubs, etc. You are required by law to keep this information secure and confidential. You leave yourself open to liability if you choose to share it with another person or make it public.
RULE #10: BE KNOWLEDGEABLE
There are rules and regulations in place for collecting rent and evicting residents. If you need to evict a tenant, but don’t take the proper steps, a lawsuit could be in your future. Typical lawyer fees are at over $250 per hour, so be sure you follow the law if you want to stay out of court.
Being a landlord means knowing all the landlord and tenant codes and keeping in strict compliance with all laws relating to West Haven property management. At Real Property Management Southern Connecticut, we have an in-house legal counsel that conforms to all trust accounting laws and regulations. We are up to date and current on all:
- State property code laws
- Local city ordinances
- Fair Housing Act & ADA
- Department of Real Estate
- Tenant screening regulations
- Real estate contract law on residential leases
- Trust and escrow laws on security deposits and monthly rental payments
- Tenant and landlord maintenance laws
- Collection and eviction laws
- Property inspection regulations
Count on us to do the rental property management work for you. Our experienced team at RPM Southern Connecticut will reduce your risk and keep you out of legal trouble. Give us a call today!